Synopses & Reviews
Popular writers and historians alike have perpetuated the powerful myth of the rugged-individualist single-handedly transforming the American West. In reality, William Robbins counters, it was the Guggenheims and Goulds, the Harrimans and Hearsts, and the Morgans and Mellons who masterminded what the West was to become. Remove the romance, he shows, and a darker West emerges—a colonial-like region where "industrial statesmen," aided by eastern U.S. and European capital, manipulated investments in pursuit of private gain while controlling wage-earning cowboys and miners.
Robbins argues that understanding the impact of capitalism on the West—from the fur trade era to the present—is essential to understanding power, influence, and change in the region.
Showing how global capitalism had a more profound impact on the modern West than individual initiative, he explores violence and racism along the Texas/Mexican border; colonial-style company towns in Montana and the Northwest; contrasting traditions astride the U.S./Canadian boundary; pace-setting agribusiness and exploitation of labor in California; the growing power of metropolitan centers and dependence of rural areas; and the emergence of a sizable federal influence.
To grasp the essence of the West's dramatic transformation, Robbins contends, you must look to the mainstays of material relations in the region—the perpetually changing character of political and economic culture; the inherent instability of resources; and the larger constellations of capitalist decision making. Consequently, he shows shy Western success and failure, prosperity and misfortune, and expansion and decline were all inseparably linked to the evolution of capitalism at the local, regional, national and global levels.
In the tradition of Patricia Nelson Limerick's Legacy of Conquest, Robbins's study challenges some of our most revered images of the West and invigorates the ongoing debates over its history and meaning for our nation.
"A forceful analysis of the role of capitalism in the history of the American West. This is an important contribution to the new western history that should be read by both historians and residents of the American West". -- Journal of American History. "This exciting book should take its place on the shelf next to Patricia Limerick's The Legacy of Conquest". -- Forest & Conservation History.
This book gives us the map and the compass we need to chart our course through the confusing terrain of the Western past and present. Drawing our attention to the central role of capitalism as a shaper of attitudes and social relations.
Table of Contents
Part 1—Western Myth, Western Reality
1. Ideology and the Way West
2. The U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: Tradition versus Modernization
3. The American and Canadian Wests: Two Nations, Two Cultures
Part 2—Forces of Transformation
4. In Pursuit of Private Gain: The West as Investment Arena
5. The Industrial West: The Paradox of the Machine in the Garden
6. From Capitalist Patriarchy to Corporate Monopoly: The Life and Times of Samuel T. Hauser
7. An "Equilibrium of Chaos": External Control and the Northern West
Part 3—Forces of Integration
8. The South and the West: A Comparative View
9. Of Country and City: The Metropolis and Hinterland in the Modern West
Part 4—Forces of Disintegration
10. Epilogue: Recycling the Old West